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Silent War: The Prodigal Sub

posted Jul 28, 2012, 11:37 PM by Douglas Sun
Originally posted: March 12, 2011

Amidst everything else, my long slog through the big campaign scenario of Silent War continues, even though I haven’t blogged about it for over a month (!). This past week, I finally made it to the bottom of 1943, and a note that I scribbled to mark the occasion says that I ended the year in which the Japanese were driven from the Solomons and the Gilbert Islands with 650 ships sunk, worth 3,145,000 tons. I didn’t note my own casualties, but I recall that they reached the mid-20’s, after a murderous December 1943 in which I lost 8 subs, mostly to bad diligent escort rolls.

At the time of this writing — just before I head off to Las Vegas for a few days to catch up with friends who will be there for the GTS trade show — I have almost completed Week 4 of February 1944, and am up to 769 ships sunk, worth 3,777,000 tons sunk. To date, the most notable kills are fleet CVs Zuikaku and Kaga (in this iteration of the Pacific War, the Battle of Midway never occurred as a random event, so I did not remove Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu and Soryu from the CV draw pile). I have cultivated 3 Super Skippers and 5 Wolfpack experience points.

A couple of observations:

First, of all of the posts on Consimworld about Silent War, I particularly recall one in which the author claimed that War Period 3 is actually the most nerve-wracking part of the big campaign scenario (as opposed to War Period 1, when there is much anxiety over whether you will hit the quarterly performance milestones). His reasoning was that the number of prime hunting grounds contracts somewhat in WP3, while at the same time the ASW bonus goes up to 2 and increases your likelihood of suffering a bad result on counterattack. So in WP3, not only do you have to work harder to find contacts, but it’s more dangerous to attack them, particularly on re-attack.

I now understand the truth of those comments. And I would add to them that I’m drawing a lot more escorts — and diligent escorts — from the War Mix. The IJN rules addenda make diligent escorts more dangerous, because now you pull a DD chit and add 3 to the destroyer’s ASW value instead of assuming a flat ASW value of 4. So under IJN rules, a diligent escort can have an ASW value as low as 3.5, but as high as 6. Maybe I’m just drawing badly and rolling badly, but death by diligent escort is now my leading cause of submarine sinking.

Also, I would advise those of you who are attempting this epic journey through historical simulation, that once you get to October 1943, do not ignore the power of the Wolfpack rules. I’ve been sticking to historical precedent and strictly using the group contact method rather than the barrier method. A Wolfpack with its strength intact that finds a big convoy can rip it to shreds with a little luck. Try to include at least one Balao-Class boat and lead with it; if you uncover a lot of escorts, the higher defense strength will help you withstand the counterattack, and after that, you will have identified at least some of the strong points that the subs following on should avoid.

Neither should you neglect the power of the Super Skipper. That +1 bonus on attack and defense helps tremendously, and once you get that bonus up to +2, it turns an already formidable Gato or Balao-Class boat into a juggernaut. In my experience, it’s almost impossible to create Super Skippers until you get the torpedo modifier to +1. But once you do, look at any time that you turn up a 10kt or more target in the first attack round as a chance to create a Super Skipper. They’re powerful weapons, so try to create as many as you can.

Finally, I want to follow up on my post about my prodigal sub, Sargo. If you’ll recall, I mistakenly left it out of the game for the better part of a year of game time because I accidentally knocked it from the Broom Box off the side of the table and didn’t notice until it came time to withdraw it from active duty, as per the reinforcement schedule. After I finally returned it to play, I began to wonder if Fate had marked it out somehow, and I began to hope that it would survive the war, or at least accomplish something unusual for a sub of its class. Well, in Week 2 of February 1944, it came across a diligent escort. I rolled a natural 9. Blub, blub blub. 

But then, I remembered that the IJN addenda include rules for trying to save your sub with a crash dive. Basically, anytime you get a result that sinks one of your subs, you can roll to see if they can get out of it with crash dive. With most classes of American subs — including the newest and most powerful classes, interestingly enough — the chance of it working is only 10%. You have to roll a natural 0.

And I rolled a natural 0 for Sargo’s crash dive.

The prodigal submarine lives.